Works For Large And Small Ensemble From 1982-2015
The clichéd trope of the isolated artist toiling over their work in a virtual vacuum, alone and against the trends of the day, is not a new one. But in the case of Paula Diehl, it is as true as it comes.
It isn’t an easy task to be a composer, a job which (to paraphrase Aaron Copland) holds few material rewards, and often even fewer good notices in the paper the next morning – it requires an inner strength and conviction in order to persevere through the challenges, be they artistic, financial, or social.
Diehl’s journey has been one punctuated by this conviction and perseverance. As a female composer whose work began just after the middle of the 20th century, the deck was already stacked against her, and her insistence on the viability of a compositional system she created – a system called “Separation,” involving her deconstruction of musical materials with an emphasis on what she describes as ‘interlocking fourths’ – did not ingratiate her with her peers or teachers.
Yet their skepticism was clearly misplaced. Diehl’s system is one which allows the unique characteristics of each instrument to shine through in explorations of harmonic content and structure, and she has utilized it to its full to create a rich catalog of works for both small and large ensembles.
The double-album SEPARATION is a representative cross-section of Diehl’s music with an emphasis on the last three decades, the period in which her compositional voice flowered most fully. Expansive orchestral scores such as Insiders (1994) and more intimate chamber works like On Course (1984) speak clearly to the singularity of Diehl’s style and provide a nice reminder that it is often those on the periphery, those who are pushed outside instead of welcomed inside, who frequently have fascinating things to say.